Sunday, 1 February 2015

Interview with UNHOLD

I've been a fan for UNHOLD for about a decade or so. Their style of noise rock driven Sludge/Stoner Metal music has won them a loyal fanbase within the Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. It's been 7 years since they released their last album but now in 2015 they are back with a new lineup and a new album – Towering – which I feel is their best album yet.

I described the album as:

Towering is an album lasting 60 minutes or so. If you are a fan of Neurosis, Kyuss and Kylesa then you are in for a treat as Unhold go straight for the jugular. Unhold have created something special with Towering as even this early in 2015, Towering is potential Album Of The Year Material. No question.”

Unhold have kindly agreed to an interview with ourselves at Sludgelord HQ. So lets gets started.

Hi All, Thanks for doing his interview. Really excited to have you here at Sludgelord as I’m a big fan of Unhold. How are things with you today.

Hey Steve, thanks for having us! Things are good, the record‘s rolling out, we‘re getting good feedback and we finally can go out and play live. Check the record in "The real world“, so to speak.

For people not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

Sure. Unhold was born from the heads & hearts of four teenagers, we decided to get instruments and give it a shot. That was around 1990, ages ago. At first we just jammed around, we never really played covers, occasionally riffing after bands like Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, Entombed. We started making our own songs pretty quick, that was more leaning towards Death/Thrash Metal. After the first couple years and a bunch of shows we gave it a more serious thought, changed our name from “Mausoleum“ to “Unhold“.

Around 2000 our original drummer decided to quit, we were lucky to have Daniel join, he also was from our little community who listened to heavy music and visited shows out of town. We released “Walking Blackwards“, our debut. That already had elements of Noise Rock and Stoner on it.

Not the heaviest production, though. 2004 we released “Loess“. I think the angriest of our albums. That as well as “Gold Cut“ (2008) was recorded with Serge Morattel in Geneva. We toured with that album for a good two years, then got back to work on new material. In 2012 we celebrated our 20 year anniversary, had a lineup change and started working to finalise the fourth album.

Towering cover art

Unhold actually split in 2012 after 20 years as a band which I was very sad about at the time. What were the reasons behind your original split. As you released 3 excellent albums within that time.

Actually we didn‘t split up, we just parted ways with our old bass player, for mainly musical reasons.
We always intended to keep going. Leo and Miriam both auditioned for bass, we thought they did excellent and asked if they both would like to join the band. As Miriam‘s original instrument was the piano we figured there might be a spot for adding a new element to our soundscape, in addition her magnificent voice. The songs for "Towering“ were pretty developed, we just had to go over and integrate organ, piano and synthesisers.

How would you describe your own sound as Unhold falls under many different categories, Noise, Sludge, Stoner, Doom, Post-Metal. Or do you think Unhold as a Rock Band through and through.

The longer we‘re in the "business“ in deed we think of ourselves as a somewhat extreme Rock Band. It‘s harder to sell if you can‘t be pinned down just in one section. But that‘s the way we like our music. We enjoy various kinds of extremes in music and why not have that reflected in our own work?

Unhold has been going since 1992. Did you ever expect to last this long as a band. What have been your personal highs and lows with the band since its inception.

We never had an extended plan for our future, we always took it from album to album. It‘s just what happens if you don‘t stop - it just keeps going on. Plus we‘re a bit stubborn by nature, so we won‘t give up that easy!

I think it’s time to talk about your new album – Towering. What can people expect from that album. I think it's’ your best work to date.

I think it‘s the most diverse album up to date, yet it‘s a unit. if there‘s a theme it would be a journey from the deepest place in your soul travelling outwards. We also kind of illustrated that with the interludes which start at the core of the earth and then move through all layers to the surface, up in the atmosphere passing our system‘s planets onward out into the depths of the galaxy.

Was it a hard or easy album to write and record for. As it’s a very powerful and intelligent album that speaks to you on so many levels.

For me personally it‘s getting harder to find stories worth telling. The music isn‘t that much of a problem, but as you get older things are settling and the teenage angst also is pretty much dissolved. Of course the world we live in is far from ideal but where we live things are smooth compared to elsewhere, with personal development also comes a wish to shed some light on the better aspects of life. Which at first glance is a bit of an opposed element to the rather harsh and melancholic music. So therein lies a challenge.

As far as the recording process goes we tried something different this time. We recorded at a studio in our home town, which gave us maximum flexibility in time-management and less dead hours. We then passed the recording on to Latch (Gonga) in Bristol who remote-mixed the album.

What does – Towering – mean to you all as a band.

It marks the beginning of this new era of the band‘s existence. We rear our heads after what feels like a state of hibernation. The beast becomes alive!

Will you being doing extensive tours to promote the album.

We have a loose tour in February, a next one is scheduled for the second half of may. We‘re hoping to do some festivals this summer, autumn also should see some live activity from our side.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band? Is it down to one individual or a group process?

We have a pretty democratic way of working on songs, basic ideas come from individual members, yet we also have a jam-based method where we gather pieces and bits. The process can be time-consuming, but I think we gain a closer relation to the resulting song in the end, you know which piece belongs where and for what reason.

The thing I admire the most about your new album is the vocal arrangement. As you include multiple vocalists throughout the album. Is it hard to decide which member sings each part on the album.

Basically who came up with lyrics got to vocalise the song. With "Southern Grave“ we made an effort to actually explore our voice-range a bit, something we might pursue further in the future.

Which bands or musicians influence you to become a musician? Any particular albums that stand out.

I can only speak for myself. I think Metallica‘s "…And Justice For All“ made me want to play a guitar, the way Neurosis weave the guitars together had a great impact on how I try to treat the instrument. There‘s too much good albums that fuelled our need to make our own music to mention here.

How important is a physical product (CD/Tape/Vinyl) to you as a band.

I think it still makes sense to bundle a collection of songs together and release it that way. It also helps you as a musician to resume over your work, to put things to rest and move on. Times are a bit confusing and it‘s hard to say in which manner people consume their music. So as a band you still have to serve all needs.

Which musical formats do you listen to and own the most – CD, Tape, Digital or Vinyl.

Much to my embarrassment i have to confess i listen to crappy mp3‘s a lot. But if i dig the record i try to get it on vinyl, so i have a decent collection.

What is your musical setup when playing live or recording in the studio? Do you have a basic setup or advanced setup?

I guess our setup is rather basic. Pedals are cumulating slowly as we‘re heading towards a little more atmospheric and dynamic sound. We‘re no gear-geeks by all means, we figured out where to plug in, that‘s as advanced as it gets!

What is the scene like in your home town and country. Are there opportunities for you to perform gigs on a regular basis? Or do you travel further afield to perform regularly.

The town we‘re based in doesn‘t have such a big metal-scene. It‘s more like a tribe of like minded people from various kinds of music. There‘s a lively garage/rock‘n‘roll and a noise/power electronics scene. The French speaking part of Switzerland has a more active and progressing scene i think. There‘s a couple venues in Switzerland, but we usually don‘t hit a town more than once a year. If we can manage the expenses we will travel for shows but we haven‘t been outside Europe yet.

So apart from the album release what other plans do you have for in 2015. Anything exciting you can tell us.

Keep going out there and play shows, meet new audiences, start working on new material.

Unhold, thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any last words of wisdom for your fans?

Keep your ears peeled, there‘s much good music out there waiting to be explored and worshipped.

Thanks for doing this. All the best with your new album.

I want to thank UNHOLD for taking the time out to talk to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Thanks to Fredy at Czar Of Crickets Productions for arranging the interview.

Towering will be available to buy from Czar of Crickets Productions from February 15th 2015 on CD/Vinyl.

Words by Steve Howe and Unhold

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